I dragged myself from my death bed for a very special date with my son.
Back in June I had booked tickets for just the 2 of us to go to Cadogan Hall in London to see a violin concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Neither of us had ever been to Cadogan Hall or seen the orchestra before. This was going to be a bit of an adventure.
But I was ill. Very ill. I am on antibiotics and just about the maximum cold medication dosage allowed. I wasn’t going to take any chances. I loaded up on throat lozenges and cough syrup at the local chemist.
I started getting ready at 1 in the afternoon so I could rest in between exertions like taking a shower and blow drying my hair. When Seb arrived home from school he found me flat out on the sofa but determined to have a magical evening.
He changed into some very smart looking trousers and shirt and we set off with our map to the hall and nearby parking in hand. We had a lovely discussion on the way whilst navigating the nightmare of rush hour traffic (5:30 pm) into the centre of London. Sebastian entertained me with his philosophical observations like why do minutes go so slowly but hours go so quickly. Good question I thought. Why do we have to pay congestion charge when driving into London? An even better question!
In a mild panic I realised that my car doesn’t lock. The car is a cheap disposable kind. OK, not that cheap but French and they certainly don’t build them to last. It has one of those keyless key thingies. You’re not supposed to need it to unlock the doors or start the car. Just having it on your person or your handbag is sufficient. At least it used to be. About 6 months ago the key stopped working on the door locking/unlocking and I have to put the key in a slot to get the thing started. The locking thing isn’t a big deal usually because there’s no way a person walking past can tell if the car is locked or not so I make sure there is nothing valuable in it and just don’t lock it. Which is fine in our driveway. Not so fine in the centre of London. I found comfort in the fact that I was headed to a very posh part of London and the chance of random vagrants/thieves walking down the road trying every car door was remote. Besides I had a Renault Megane and all the other cars were going to be Aston Martins. Surely, they’d rather have one of those. I know I would.
In a bit more of a panic I turned right too early and we had a bit of an adventure getting back to where we needed to be in order to get to where we wanted to go. That will only make sense if you’ve ever driven through London. The streets are laid out with less sense than a spider’s web. You think you’re heading west and then bam, the river is in front of you which means that you’ve actually been driving south for the last 4 miles. Ah, those medieval peasants had quite the sense of humour.
We found a parking space and Sebastian made the astute observation that we had parked right in front of the hall. So we did. As I read the parking restriction signs I knew it was too good to be true. We asked a man at the hall if he had any suggestions and he sent us on a wild goose chase down Kings Road. After several aborted attempts down various roads finally I gave up and headed back to where we started.
We found some 4 hour meter parking just around the corner from where we had started. I duly fed 12 pound coins into the meter. Why I was carrying around 12 pound coins remains a mystery to me but I am going with the story that it is daily weight lifting routine. Again you will only get that if you have ever carried around pound coins in your handbag. They are heavy.
We walked up Sloane Street with me bundled up like a rough sleeper. I had about 4 layers of clothing under my coat, scarf, gloves, hat. I think maybe Sebastian was a bit embarrassed by my appearance but he never would have admitted that since I was buying the sushi. My fever had me sweating under the layers as was walked what suddenly became an epically long journey.
We were originally headed for Yo Sushi! at Harrod’s until I realised that Harrod’s is miles from Sloane Street. OK, not miles but too far for us to walk in our condition, especially since our wrong turning and parking misadventures had left us pinched for time.
As I walked past all the designer shops with dresses for skinny minnys my days before children and mortgages flashed back from the depths of my memory and the answer became clear. Harvey Nichols. Back before I had other’s depending on me for food and a roof, HN was my favourite place to drop a few bob and have nothing meaningful to show for it. But boy, did I feel great for having done so. But Harvey Nichols had a Yo Sushi! on the Fifth Floor. And that was all I needed tonight!
Seb was in heaven as he removed plate after plate from the conveyer plate and despite the difficulties of eating when you have an extremely loose tooth and a mother resembling Frosty the Snowman he got his fill.
When we went to pay I found that the tickets weren’t in my handbag. Mmmmm, that was odd.
I remembered during the parking hunt Seb had taken them out of my handbag so he could look at the map they were attached to. Not that he was helping much but he was trying so hard. Then I put the tickets in a safe place on the dashboard. As the minutes ticked away (very quickly he added) he checked the tickets for the start time of the concert. And that was the last we had seen the tickets. Oh, they must be in the car I thought as we moved off back down Sloan Street towards the car. Not too worry it was on the way to the concert hall and don’t pay too much attention to the sweat on my upper lip. That would just be my fever.
We turned that car upside down but the tickets were nowhere in the car. We turned my handbag updside down – no tickets. I turned Sebastian’s pockets inside out and no tickets. I broke down in tears and still no tickets. Sebastian made another philosophical observation that since Daddy wasn’t here we couldn’t even blame him, wish we’d brought Abigail.
Intellectually, I knew those tickets were in the car. Seb on the floor of the back seat found the tickets down along the side trapped. We slide the seat back and voila, tickets.
We had 10 minutes to spare.
The concert made everything we had endured up to that moment worth it. Seb was one of maybe 4 children in the audience and he was certainly the youngest. Watching an orchestra play is more satisfying than watching a sporting match. Sebastian plays the violin. Or at least he tries to. For purely selfish reasons I had wanted him to see and hear the possibilities of his playing. I wanted him to see professionals attain perfection. I wanted my ears to have a night off.
And it was magic. The orchestra started with the Carnival Overture by Dvorak which is just so much fun. Seb’s eyes were wide. So-Ock Kim was the soloist for Mendelssohn’s violin concerto and she was inspiring. Sebastian told me the music was louder if you closed your eyes. I thought he was falling asleep. During the internal we picked up a programme and drinks: OJ (for me) and cranberry juice (for him) and talked about how much practice these musicians must do every single day. I hope I wasn't too subtle. After the interval we head the emotional Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. During the breathtaking parts, Seb would squeeze my hand. He was impressed. Not bad, mum!
We headed back to our car in the cold November night. Sebastian held my hand and told me how the orchestra was amazing and maybe he wanted to be conductor and how plucking the strings made a different sound to bowing the strings and the difference between a viola and a violin is size and sound and how big the bass cellist was and did I hear the harp and and and and?
We turned up the car heater and headed up Sloan Street passing the beautiful Christmas lights and deserted roads of nightime London. In under 5 minutes Sebastian was sound asleep. He went straight into bed when we got home. And I will remember this night for my entire life. I wonder if he will.